Monday, December 27, 2010

Brooklyn Waterworks, Freeport, Long Island, NY

 A pile of bricks is all that's left of the Brooklyn Waterworks, once located in Freeport, New York, a few blocks from where Rob grew up.

The City of Brooklyn purchased nearby Milburn Pond to supply Ridgewood Reservoir in the 1880's. After the pond was enlarged, a new pumping station was needed to accommodate Brooklyn's growing need for water and the Brooklyn Waterworks, also known as the Milburn Pumping Station, was born.

Brooklyn Waterworks before the smokestacks were removed
Designed by Brooklyn architect, Frank Freeman was completed in 1891 and was described as  "Long Island's most ambitious Romanesque Revival design."  It housed five steam pumps and could deliver up to 54 million gallons of water a day.   Piping ran down the length of  Route 27, also known as Sunrise Highway, continuing down Conduit Avenue in Brooklyn. 

Once Brooklyn became part of New York City, however, the need for the new pumping station diminished.  In 1898, Brooklyn began receiving its water from the Croton Aqueduct system and in 1929, the Brooklyn Waterworks was used only as a backup water supply for emergencies.  Its two huge smokestacks, pictured above, were removed at that time.

Milburn Pond Park, Freeport
The pumping station continued as a backup supply until it was decommissioned in 1977. The property was bought up by Nassau County, who removed the machinery and allowed the building to fall into decay.  It is said that the group Blue Oyster Cult recorded there in the 80's before a large fire destroyed the building in the 90's.  The shell was the only thing that was left of it for years.

There were rumors that the property was bought up and was going to be used a condos and later, a hospital.  These turned out to be true.  According to Wikipedia, the property had been bought up by developer Gary Mileus (who also owns Oheka Castle) in 1989, for 1.4 million dollars to be used for 48 condos; construction to be completed in 1990.  However, a housing market collapse halted the project and, not long after, the building was severely damaged by fire.  Once again, Mr. Mileus produced another proposal to convert what remained of the building into a hospital. This time, his idea was blocked by the local government. 

Remains of Brooklyn Water Works, 2006

In 2009,  Mileus won a 3.5 million dollar lawsuit relating to the ownership of the property from the Village of Freeport.  It is estimated that Mr. Mileus lost 12 million on the property. The Brooklyn Waterworks was torn down on August 30, 2010.  According to an article in L & M Publications, the Brooklyn Waterworks had landmark status since 1986, but was found to be beyond repair.  In fact, Freeport's Landmarks Commission had approved the demolition because "it was dangerous and it became a safety issue."
These pictures are from Rob's Long Island Oddities Mini Run in 2006

There are still two pumping stations left, one in the town of Wantagh and one in Massapequa. 

My friend, Kanc (named after the historic Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire) and I are showing off a brick that Rob saved from the building. 

 As usual here are some links with more information:

This is a link to the Long Island Oddities site.  It contains a detailed history of the Waterworks plus more pictures of the building in decay.

Wikipedia article where I borrowed the black and white picture of the Brooklyn Waterworks.

A Youtube video that I found by local historian Robert Miller

and another Youtube video showing the ruins

some pics and an aerial photo of where it used to be. These are really interesting shots.

article in the New York Times dated January 12, 1869

  Newsday article regarding Gary Melius lawsuit against the Village of Freeport

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lord and Taylor, NYC, NY

On December 10, 2010, Susan, Rob and I made our traditional trek to NYC to see the Christmas decorations. On the way down to Penn Station, before seeing Macy's windows, we stopped off at Lord and Taylor's to catch a glimpse of their windows.  Even though they didn't take any pictures of me there, I was curious about how these wonderful Christmas windows began and searched the web.  I have written about the Rockefeller tree and Macy's Department Store.  Here is the last installment, which is the history of Lord and Taylor.

Looks like a city street, doesn't it.  It's actually this year's Christmas holiday displays in one of the windows at Lord and Taylor's department store.  In fact, Lord and Taylor was the first store to use their windows for elaborate holiday displays at Christmas rather than merchandise as other stores had done.

Lord and Taylor was founded in 1826 by Samuel Lord, and immigrant from England, and his wife's cousin, George Washington Taylor.  Their first store was located on Catherine Street in Manhattan and sold hosiery, misses' wear and elegant Cashmere shawls.

In 1861, they moved their store to Broadway at Grand Street and in 1870, they moved again to a newly constructed cast iron building on Broadway and 20th Street, an area known as the "Ladies' Mile". From there they moved again to their present location on Fifth Avenue in 1914, becoming the first store to reside there.  The building, designed by Starrett and van Vleck, became their headquarters and flagship store and is located between 38th and 39th Streets.  Towards the end of 2007, it was designated as a New York City landmark.

In 1916, Lord and Taylor became a founding member of the American Dry Goods Company, soon to become the Associated Dry Goods Corporation. 
In 1921, Dorothy Shaver started at the store in 1921 to promote and market dolls that her sister Elsie had created.  The dolls were known as the "Five Little Shavers."  She joined Lord and Taylor in 1924 and became head of the Comparative Shopping Bureau.  In 1927, she became a part of the Board of Directors and in 1931, she was appointed Vice President.  In 1937, she became First Vice President and 1945, Dorothy Shaver became the first woman president in the United States.  In 1946, she became the first woman president of a major Fifth Avenue department store.  She remained as President until her death in 1959, but her legacy lives on.  Her many innovations at Lord and Taylor are still continued today.

The store began to expand with the opening of the Manhasset, Long Island store in  1941 with several more opening up across the country. This includes stores in Connecticut in 1969, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas, Michigan and four stores in Illinois in the 70's.
In the early 80's, Lord and Taylor expanded to eleven stores in south Florida. At one time, Lord and Taylor had 86 stores across the United States.

Amidst structural changes, Lord and Taylor lost its former position as the fashion leader in the 80's and 90's to Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Nordstroms.

Today, thanks to more restructuring changes in 2003, Lord and Taylor has made strong signs in turning around its financial position.  In September of 2010, the store is looking toward its first expansion in 10 years with the opening of a second store in Westchester County, NY.  It is scheduled to open in 2012.

Here are some other links with more history information.

Wikipedia article:

Article in Fortune Magazine, 2008

Lord and Taylor official website

pictures of present and former Lord and Taylor stores


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Knollwood Estate, Muttontown, Long Island, NY

These are the remains of a Gold Coast estate that wasn't saved.  Its name is Knollwood, also known as the King Zog ruins, which I will explain later on.  This is what's left of the rear entrance, with a double staircase leading out to the garden.
Knollwood  was built for Wall Street mogul and steel magnate Charles Hudson on a 260 acre property.  Designed by architects, Hiss and Weekes, this 60 room house was constructed between 1916 and 1920.  The estate also contained Westbrook Farms, (not to be confused by the Bayard Cutting estate called Westbrook) a working farm with over one hundred Jersey cows.  The extensive gardens were landscaped by Ferrucio Vitale.  Gazebos, fountains and porticoes dotted the leveled gardens.

The photo on the right shows only one staircase heading into what was once the garden area.  In back of me you can see the rear stairs and the hill that the house once sat upon.  There were three levels of the formal gardens and later I will provide before and after links so you can see what this magnificent estate looked like.  I'm sure it will surprise you as it has surprised me.
In 1951, King Zog  of Albania bought the estate from the Hudson's for approximately $102,800. He intended to use the mansion as his kingdom in exile, but he never moved in. In 1955, Albania's parliament sold the estate and built a large concrete wall around it. This was done to keep out vandals and looters searching for King Zog's vast wealth that was rumored to be buried inside the mansion.

By the time noted philanthropist, Lansdell Christie bought the estate in 1955, the house had been so badly damaged  that Christie had the mansion ripped down for safety purposes in 1959. Today the estate and the grounds are located inside Muttontown Preserve where you can see the terrace wall and double staircase (picture on the right) and most of what is left of the leveled gardens.  Some of the remains are still crumbling, but you can hike around and take pictures.  


The entrance gates to Knollwood

Early shot of the rear of Knollwood.  Notice the double staircase at the base of the house all the way over to the right.

 Here are the links that I promised.

Old Long Island. This site has many links to Knollwood and is worth looking at to see other long lost estates of the Gilded Age.

Here is an aerial view of Knollwood including the pamphlet that was used to sell the estate.

Wikipedia article

Long Island Gold Coast Estates where I got the picture from.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Macy's Department Store, NYC, NY

This is Macy's Department Store, located at 34th and Broadway in New York City, but the store wasn't always located here. Rowland Hussey Macy's store, better known as R.H. Macy's, was located on 14th Street and 6th Avenue in 1858.

By 1877, the small dry goods store had developed into a successful department store and had grown so large, it took up the ground space of 11 adjacent buildings.

In 1902, Macy's had outgrown their old location and moved to its present location across from Herald Square. By, 1918, Macy's was doing well. The company became public in 1922 and began their expansion of competing department stores with stores such as LaSalle and Kock Toledo, Ohio, in 1923,  Davison-Paxton in Atlanta, Georgia in 1924 and Bambergers in Newark, New Jersey in 1936.

In 1924, the 7th Avenue entrance was completed, making it the World's Largest Store having one million square feet of retail space.  Back then, just as now, Macy's attracted shoppers from around the world.

Also in 1924, a tradition began.  The first Macy's Christmas parade was started by Macy's immigrant employees as a celebration of their new American heritage.  It featured floats, bands and animals from the zoo and had attracted 10,000 onlookers.  If you haven't guessed by now, it is now known as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and officially ushers in the Christmas season every year with the arrival of Santa Claus at the end of the parade. 

In 1945, Macy's acquired O'Conner Moffatt and Company in San Francisco.  Two years later, the names were converted to the Macy's. This included the famous 1866 store in Union Square, where, in 1971, The Cellar was introduced to their basement. It was so successful that the New York stores followed five years later.

Federated Department Stores acquired Macy's (now known as Macy's Inc.) in 1994.  A & S (Abraham and Straus, a great department store in its own right) became part of Macy's in 1995.  In the same year, Macy's purchased the Broadway Stores, which includes Broadway, Emporium and Weinstocks. Jordan Marsh of Boston, already owned by Federated became Macy's in 1996.  Macy's also bought up 17 Stern's Department Stores located in New York and New Jersey in 2001.  In that same year, Macy's purchased stores in Hawaii and Guam.

By 2005, Macy's had 240 locations, most of its stores concentrated on both coasts of the United States.  When Federated became Macy's Inc., there were approximately 425 locations across the country. In 2006, Macy's locations grew larger, now serving customers in more than 800 stores all over United States and online.

There are several first's in Macy's history, beginning with the the promotion of Margaret Getchell to an executive position in the late 1800's.  They also developed the one-price system, and according to their website, in which the same item was sold to every customer at one price, and quoting specific prices for goods in newspaper advertising.  It was the first store to introduce the tea bag, the Idaho baked potato and different color bath towels,  Macy's was also the first store to acquire a New York City liquor license. They were also the first to start the tradition of holiday window displays in 1896.

A recreation of  the first store was also located in Freedomland on 14th Street and 6th Avenue  in the Little Old New York section of the park.

By the way, the red star that adorns the Macy's store was adopted by R.H. Macy as a symbol of his success from his sailing days. 

Here are some websites that will give you more history.

Wikipedia article:

the official website

Time Magazine article "A Brief History of the Thanksgiving Day Parade",8599,1862565,00.html

Saturday, December 11, 2010

History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Rockefeller Center, NY

 Here I am at Rockefeller Center and behind me is the 74 foot Norway Spruce from Mahopac, NY that was chosen for this year's tree.  The tallest tree to stand at Rockefeller Center was a 100 foot spruce used in 1999.
The very first tree to stand in this spot was only a 20 foot balsam fir in 1931 and was decorated with "strings of cranberries, garlands of paper and even a few tin cans" on Christmas Eve. The tree was put up by construction workers who had just started work on this magnificent place.  The actual tradition didn't really begin until 1933 when 30 Rockefeller Plaza first opened.  And so every year, except for 1932, there has been a tree standing at Rockefeller Center. 
First tree to stand in Rockefeller Plaza, 1931
 In 1936, two trees were put up to celebrate the opening of the skating rink.  There were three trees erected in 1942 to support the war, each one was trimmed with red, white and blue decorations.  In 1944, the trees remained unlit in keeping with wartime blackout regulations.  When the war ended the next year, organizers celebrated by using six ultraviolet light projectors to make 700 fluorescent globes appear to glow in the dark.

1951 was the year that NBC first televised the tree lighting on the Kate Smith Show.  During the years 1953 through 1955, the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony was broadcast from the Howdy Doody show.  Since that time, the tree lighting has become a tradition, usually broadcast from late November to early December, each with a number of celebrities popular during that particular year including, Bob Hope, Barbara Walters and Liza Minnelli.

In 1971, the tree was recycled and used as mulch for the nature trails in upper Manhattan.  In 2005, the tree was cut up and the lumber given to Habitat for Humanity to use as door frames for homes in New York, Louisiana, Brazil and India.

Ornaments for the trees changed as the years changed.  In 1934, the tree was hung with dogs, horses, giraffes, sailboats and stars along with 1,200 colored lights. Holiday songs were piped into a public address system and made it seem as if the tree was singing. During the 50's, the trees were spray painted white and trimmed with popcorn and cranberry garlands with 10 foot aluminum icicles. 

The tree was topped with a 4 foot plastic star and was used between the years 1950 through 1960.  A fiberglass and gold leaf star was used in the 1990's before being replaced by the 550-lb. Swarovski Star in 2004.

I will end here, but as usual, you can always learn more from these sites that I am including at the bottom of this blog.   Thanks to Wikipedia article and to a Time Magazine pictorial that I found on the web for the black and white shots.
The Time Magazine pictorial, "A Brief History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree".  Great shots and historical accounts.  Check it out.,29307,1863633_1809368,00.html 

Wikipedia article

Here is the link to Manhattan NY.  This explains the history of many different landmarks around NYC

and another article

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Westbrook, Estate at Bayard Cutting Arboretum, Great River, LI, NY

The breakfast room
We took a tour of Westbrook, the estate of William Bayard Cutting at 2 this afternoon.  The estate is located on the grounds of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River and what a lovely place it was.  Decorated for the holidays, there was a tree in every room.  I'm sitting in the breakfast room, one of the brightest rooms in the house.  The glass case I'm sitting on contains some of the china pieces that the family used while they were living here.

Westbrook was designed by architect Charles C. Haight and was completed in 1886.  An annex, built in 1890, contains a billiard room, an organ, a gentleman's smoking lounge and some guest rooms.  According to our wonderful tour guide Anna, it was closed off after Bayard Cutting's death in 1912 by his wife, Olivia Bayard Cutting.  It was opened every once in a while to be aired out and cleaned.  It is still closed off to this day.

The dining room
Each room has a different wooden floor and beautiful Tiffany windows, lamps, trim and mosaics.  We have some pictures of some of the windows and a lamp which I will share with you later.  The fireplace in the dining room is from the 1500's and was shipped over from Europe.  The entrance way, one of the largest rooms in the house, is furnished with 400 year old English oak which was also shipped over from an estate in Europe.                              

Fireplace in the entrance way

  According to the Wikipedia article, Scottish heather was shipped over to be used to thatch the gatehouse.  Also in 1895, Mr. Cutting and his brother designed a golf course which is considered to be the first private golf course in the United States.

William Bayard Cutting was born in 1850 and was brought up by his maternal grandparents after his mother died giving birth to his brother Robert Fulton Cutting.  His father was living in France.  William graduated from college in 1869, received his Master's Degree and was admitted to the bar in 1872.  He married Olivia Peyton Murray five years later and they had four children, two sons and two daughters, the two sons born with tuberculosis. Their oldest daughter, Justine, lived well up until her 90's. The younger daughter cared for her mother, Olivia, until her death in 1949.   
Their son's room, Bronson Bayard Cutting

The Bayard Cuttings were well acquainted with Louis Tiffany and his windows adorn almost every room in this Tudor style country manor home. According to our guide Anna, the dining room Tiffany window is the first to capture the morning light. I will post the windows at the bottom of this blog.
Entrance to Westbrook
In 1936, Mrs. Cutting's daughter, Mrs.Olivia James, deeded approximately two hundred acres to the State of New York as a gift in memory of her father. This was only part of the estate as the property originally consisted well over one thousand acres.  An additional three hundred and eighty two acres was donated in 1938 by Mrs. James and an endowment consisting of one million dollars was made by Mrs.Bayard Cutting for the arboretum.  Mrs. Bayard Cutting would continue to live at the estate until her death in 1949. 

Rear of Westbrook

In 1973, Westbrook was placed on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Special thanks to our tour guide, Anna, who did so much for us today. We really enjoyed her tour today and she really took command of the large crowd that we had.

Here are the Tiffany windows I promised.  A lamp is included.

Dining room window

Tiffany lamp in Mr. Bayard Cutting's bedroom

Living room window and entrance way windows

As usual, below are some links to several sites on the arboretum:

Wikipedia article on William Bayard Cutting.  Click on the reference links inside article to learn more.

Wikipedia article on Bayard Cutting Arboretum

Below is East Islip's historical  page on the Westbrook estate.  Click on Oral 1, 2 and 3 for a complete history.

This is the official website of the Bayard Cutting Arboretum

Here is Westbrook and the Arboretum on Wikimapia.  It is outlined in red.

One last picture to leave you with.   This is the beautiful rear view of  the Connetquot River that the Bayard Cutting family could enjoy from every room in the house.